Pensaments of an Anthropological Patzer

This is a Test Post

15 April 2011, 13:50

I’m creating a test page to show what this would actually look like.

It’s fairly easy to do, but it’s perhaps not as straightforward as formatting with a really good document layout program.


13 December 2007, 08:50

Once upon a time, this blog became a tiny magnet for attention from folks whose attention I did not want to draw. I closed it down & hid the archives.

I wager that time’s passed.

Oft him anhaga are gebideð…

3 March 2006, 11:13

I got my final W2, last week, and completed my FAFSA on-line Wednesday, one day before the deadline. Last year was a broke year, for me: I held a full-time job for three weeks, and spent the other forty-nine scrapping.

I enjoyed that freedom, and I miss it, now that I’m working all the time. However, the time wasted continues to pay off: The government expects me to pay very, very little in tuition next year, and the sum to be saved is far more realistic. London seems nearer daily.
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2 March 2006, 10:10

Dan Waber (known in some circles as [brick]) is one of the more interesting poets I know of. His love of language shows in his constant experimentation — his most striking public experiment, at the moment, is his minimalist concrete poetry blog. Dan’s love of words and their weird qualities is everywhere in his work, and anyone with similar interests would do well to spend a little time exploring his site.

One of his most recent projects emphasises in a more bold way the uniqueness of words — or certain words — in multiple human languages: untranslatable is ‘a community project formed to examine issues of untranslatability in general, with a specific focus on single words that require phrases, paragraphs, or pages to translate’. Fun.

The project’s not yet two weeks old, but it’s got a strong start. Saudade, 建前, оскомина, เกรงใจ, Schadenfreude… It’s quite a list.

Take a visit. It’s a fascinating read. And if you can, lend a hand.

Peggy Appiah Passes Away

14 February 2006, 13:06

Peggy Appiah, British-Ghanaian folklorist and philanthropist, has passed away. She had been a tireless collector of Asante folktales (Anansesɛm) and published the largest collection of Akan proverbs (mmɛbusɛm) to date. Her father, Sir Stafford Cripps, was the British Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1947-1950. Her husband, Joe Appiah, was deeply involved in the Ghanaian independence movement (Kwame Nkrumah was the best man at Appiah’s wedding to the young Miss Cripps), and was subsequently involved in multiple Ghanaian governments. Their son, Kwame Anthony Appiah, is a philosopher and novelist, and a member of the faculty of Princeton University. The Appiahs — writers all — have been one of the most public families in Ghanaian history.

I had hoped that I might someday meet Mrs. Appiah, but her generation of Asantes and Akanists is passing away more quickly than I can get myself back to Ghana. It is to be hoped that the Herculean effort represented by her Bu Me Bɛ — a collection of seven thousand proversb — will be remembered through the work of other folklorists, anthropologists, and cultural historians. Rest in peace, Mrs. Appiah. Wo ne Nyame nkɔ.

Cantonese Reading of Chinese Character

11 February 2006, 12:17

Anyone out there know — or know someone who knows — how to read ‘滇’ in Cantonese? I know that in Mandarin it’s diān. Apple’s Chinese Text Converter indicates that 婊 should be the traditional version, but I’ve no way, at the moment, of verifying that, and on-line dictionaries don’t give the same definition.

滇紅茶 is Dian Hong tea. The first character is a name for Yunnan — one that predates 云南 (Yúnnán) by a century, probably, at least. The second is hóng, which means ‘red’. In Cantonese, it’s hùhng. The term 紅茶, literally ‘red tea’, corresponds to English ‘black tea’. This tea is often sold in the US as ‘Yunnan tea’, ‘Yunnan gold tea’, or ‘Yunnan red tea’. Probably some other names out there, too — I got it as ‘yellow tea’, yesterday (though ‘yellow tea’ often refers to another kind of tea entirely).

Any help would be much appreciated.

4 February 2006, 09:48

I love TS Eliot. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‘ is one of my favourite English-language poems… perhaps my very favourite. (Those who think they know me won’t be surprised. Those who do might be.)

But I don’t fully get The Waste Land. I’ve read the poem a couple dozen times, and my current slow reading is the first in which I’ve begun to actually understand. I needed BC Southam’s help.

In the poem, Eliot repeatedly refers to London as the un-something city. That phrase has caught me every time I’ve read the poem, and I’ve thought ‘Yes. London will be my un-something city.’

So why is it that I can never remember, five minutes later, what that something is?
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Queer Theory

3 February 2006, 17:46

I remember the way. When I get there, I’ll have to speak like I’m drunk. You have to use the right words in the right order. I’m the drunk man, showing up to fuck her. I have to remember to be obnoxious. There’s a script to be followed…

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CounterPulse Wednesday Lectures

29 January 2006, 12:25

CounterPulse, a great performance space South of Market run in large part by San Francisco activist and historian Chris Carlsson (blog here), started its Spring Talk series two weeks ago with a lecture on the San Francisco general strike of 1934 and the Oakland general strike of 1946. Last Wednesday, Greg Gaar gave an amazing slideshow presentation on the changing natural face of the city since the 1850s. On 8 February, a group of speakers will talk about the city’s history with the Philippines and local Filipino history. There’s a theoretical $3-to-$5 sliding scale, which I encourage everyone to pay, but lack of funds is no reason not to show — the City Lights Foundation (once again Lawrence Ferlinghetti finds his way into my blog!) has provided financial backing, and voluntary donations are collected by passed hat. This is fun stuff! Five bucks ain’t too much to pay for the kind of local education that can help us get a better grip on our present, and if you haven’t got an Abe, well… nobody’s looking, nobody’s judging, and you need this knowledge even more than those of us who can pay for it.

San Franciscans: Come.

The Policy of Europe

29 January 2006, 12:05

January has felt like a very GOP month, thus far: I’ve been reading The Wealth of Nations and the KJV. I feel a little dirty Of course, while neither Moses nor Adam Smith was politically radical by today’s standards, it’s important to remain aware of the fact that these texts are essentially being appropriated by today’s American conservatives. (I somehow doubt that that bleeding heart Jesus would be behind Bushian tax cuts… What did he say, again? Give unto Washington that which is Washington’s?) Neo-cons wouldn’t dig Smith’s economics, and he wouldn’t approve of their brand of interventionism.

For example, in Book I, succinctly titled ‘Of the causes of improvement in the productive powers of labour, and of the order according to which its produce is naturally distributed among the different ranks of people’, Smith dedicates a chapter to inequalities in wages of labour and costs of stock. He makes a curious division between ‘inequalities arising from the nature of the employments themselves’ and ‘inequalities occasioned by the policy of Europe.’ The ontological status of ‘nature’ in Smith’s concepts of natural prices, wages, rents, &c. may and should be debated — I tend to agree with Mauss that homo œconomicus (a term which Smith did not use, but which applies well to his understanding of human economic decision-making) has never existed. I’d like to skip past the critique of Smith, for a moment, though, to the third of Europe’s policies that has a deleterious effect on equality of wages and prices:

…The policy of Europe, by obstructing the free circulation of labour and stock both from employment to employment, and from place to place, occasions in some cases a very inconvenient inequality in the whole of the advantages and disadvantages of their different employments.
Bantam Classics, p. 185

The first sort of obstruction discussed by Smith consists in guild and corporation restrictions, but the greater part of the section deals with geographic restrictions, focusing on England’s ‘poor laws’ which restricted the movement of labour from one part of the Kingdom to another.

In most countries in the 21st century, citizens are permitted to move freely from one state, province, or city to another. It seems unlikely that Smith would have foreseen the sort of mass movement of labour that we see today, say, over the US-Mexican border: ‘After all that has been said of the levity and inconstancy of human nature, it appears evidently from experience that a man is of all sorts of luggage the most difficult to be transported.’ (p. 106) (I may well revise my view of Smith’s view of labour’s motility after finishing Book IV, which deals with Europe’s colonies.) Nevertheless, his reasoning applies equally well internationally, and the suggestion seems implicit. As an individual, his opinion might change with awareness of current conditions, but if his philosophy was right in 1776, it’s right now.

Despite Bush’s recent support for a temporary-worker program, Neo-Cons generally loathe such ideas, and palaeo-conservatives aren’t much more receptive. The Democrats in general certainly have no special interest in open borders. Neither conservatives nor liberals will have anything to do with this sort of stuff: This is the domain of radicals — folks like the Kensington Welfare Rights Union.